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VÁŠÁRYOVÁ APPOINTMENT LEADS TO RENEWED ACCUSATION THAT GOVERNMENT IS VICTIMISING HZDS-CHOSEN DIPLOMATS

Battle joined over political diplomats

Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Boris Gandel announced on February 24 that Magda Vášáryová had been selected to succeed Ondrej Nemčok as Slovak Ambassador to Poland. The posting marks the second stint as ambassador for the former actress and Slovak presidential candidate, who served as Czechoslovak Ambassador to Austria from 1990 to 1992.
Political analysts said that Vášáryová would improve diplomatic relations with Poland which had stagnated under Nemčok. Selected to his post by former Prime Minister Vladimír Mečiar in October 1998, Nemčok was one of several ambassadors which diplomats had criticised as unqualified, and which were sent abroad by Mečiar's HZDS party after it failed to win enough votes to form a government coalition.


Former actress Magda Vášáryová.
photo: TASR

Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Boris Gandel announced on February 24 that Magda Vášáryová had been selected to succeed Ondrej Nemčok as Slovak Ambassador to Poland. The posting marks the second stint as ambassador for the former actress and Slovak presidential candidate, who served as Czechoslovak Ambassador to Austria from 1990 to 1992.

Political analysts said that Vášáryová would improve diplomatic relations with Poland which had stagnated under Nemčok. Selected to his post by former Prime Minister Vladimír Mečiar in October 1998, Nemčok was one of several ambassadors which diplomats had criticised as unqualified, and which were sent abroad by Mečiar's HZDS party after it failed to win enough votes to form a government coalition.

Nemčok was criticised for being an unqualified and lethargic ambassador. "Nemčok was an example of the typical bureaucrat Mečiar sent to the embassies during the last months of his government," said Pavol Lukáč, a political analyst with the Slovak Foreign Policy Association in Bratislava. "He wasn't a strong ambassador. He was too passive, and that's why he was dismissed."

While analysts were critical of Nemčok, they were high on Vášáryová. On top of her experience as ambassador, she also established the Slovak Foreign Policy Association, a foreign policy think-tank she now chairs.

"Slovakia is going to have a charming and wise ambassador," said Polish Foreign Affairs Minister Bronislaw Geremek for the SITA press agency on March 24.

"She personally knows the Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski, Foreign Minister Geremek and other important officials," Lukáč added, saying that her diplomatic contacts as well as her experience would help her as Ambassador to Poland. Lukáč said that the Slovak Ambassador to Poland ranked as the third most important ambassadorial position behind Washington and Brussels.

When contacted by The Slovak Spectator, Vášáyová said that she would not speak to the press regarding her posting until May 1, at which time she and the Foreign Ministry would have a written plan for her agenda as ambassador.

'Unjust' departure

News of his recall was not well-received by Nemčok, who served as Deputy Education Minister under the Mečiar government from 1994 till 1998. While analysts said that he had been replaced for his ineptitude, he labelled the recall as "totally politically motivated."

"I consider my dismissal to be an injustice," he told the Slovenská Republika daily on March 2. "I don't understand why I should be dismissed for political reasons because I never once undermined the foreign policy of our government. I don't want to blow my own horn, but I contributed to the partnerships between 14 Slovak and Polish towns... and I visited 12 of the 16 Polish regions."

The first sign of trouble between Nemčok and the new government appeared immediately after the 1998 elections when Prime Minister Mikuláš Dzurinda visited Warsaw less than a week after visiting Brussels. Nemčok bucked diplomatic protocol by failing to welcome Dzurinda at the airport.

Lukáč said that the Slovak Foreign Ministry contacted Vášáryová regarding the Polish ambassadorial position as early as November 1999. But according to the Slovak Constitution, all ambassadorial dismissals and appointments have to be approved by President Rudolf Schuster, who has often disagreed with the policies of the Foreign Ministry.

"It's not good to change ambassadors nominated by the HZDS solely for political reasons if they are good," Schuster said in an interview with The Slovak Spectator on March 17. "That tendency was there, but I stopped it. Poland, however, was another case. If the ministry was sure that the ambassador wasn't doing his job properly, I had nothing against a change."

Since the 1998 elections, 12 Slovak ambassadors appointed by Mečiar have been recalled. When Vášáryová takes her post as expected in June, the total will increase to 13. Foreign Minister Eduard Kukan said that further changes would follow throughout the year.

The recalls will likely be met with more cries of foul play. "From the moral and professional point of view, I don't consider Vášáryová as a good person to be ambassador of the Slovak Republic to Poland," said new HZDS Vice-Chairwoman Zdenka Kramplová on March 29.

Kramplová was appointed Ambassador to Canada in October, 1998 after serving as the Mečiar government's Foreign Affairs Minister. After being recalled in November immediately after the Dzurinda government took power, she refused to return for several months.

The Foreign Ministry's Gandel said that the latest move had been made simply because Nemčok had been deficient in his role as ambassador. "Ambassador Nemčok did not meet the demands expected of a Slovak Ambassador to Poland," Gandel said in an official statement March 24.

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